I am really warming to the subject of kendo teaching, so thought I would give it one more burst. I noticed that a dojo in the Mid West is offering online kendo tuition. This may be a great idea, but it reminded me, and perhaps it will my older readers, of the advertising in the back of bygone boys comics for postal courses on “jiujitsu” sic. and bodybuilding. One of these famously elicited the reply, “Dear Charles Atlas, I have completed your course, please send me my muscles”
Seriously, I do not know if you can learn kendo online, or from books or videos, for that matter. I have always thought that the traditional Japanese teaching approach of demonstration followed by the individual constantly repeating the action until everyone is satisfied, as being the easiest way to commit kendo techniques to muscle memory. I am also wary of over analysis and thinking too deeply about kendo in that we are aiming to react to opportunities instantly in a state of “no mind”.
Following Tesshu and Ittosai’s guidance on repetition leading to mastery, kendo has developed on the principle that you should train exhaustively until each technique becomes an extension of yourself. However on the basis of “garbage in garbage out” it pays to have a qualified teacher watching over you and ensuring that you get it right from the start and continue to make it better.
Do books and visual aids work? I am sure they do, but not in isolation. Books, web sites and blogs offer theory, history and discussion, but are not ideal to learn technique. Video whether online or DVD gives you the opportunity to watch techniques carried out by experts.
Chiba sensei’s latest book incorporates a DVD which shows each technique in full motion and correlates to the relevant page. Information of this kind is a valuable supplement to your normal dojo training, but would not work on its own for a raw beginner.
My own favourite instruction manual is Youtube, which has some great video footage of kendo. If you seek out the semi-final and the final videos of this year’s eighth dan holders’ competition, you will see a master class of how men and kote should be done in shiai. However as for learning exclusively from the screen or books, I am not so sure. As always please don’t, and I am sure you won’t, take my word as gospel, as I may be biased. My last experience of e-learning cost me a laptop, when I knocked a glass of wine into it whilst trying to learn a guitar solo.